Etching: 9,6 x 14,6 cm
with watermark: Foolscap with a 7-pointed collar (Hinterding. P. 142)
signed and dated: ‘Rembrandt f. 1654’
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Etchings such as The Virgin and Child with a Cat, of 1654, represent the very pinnacle of printmaking as a creative art form. This print shows a homely scene of maternal affection but it is also a powerful piece of Christian symbolism. While the cat on the left is playing with the Virgin’s hem, a snake can be seen slithering out from under her skirt. The Virgin treading on the snake is a theological allusion that was understood at the time as foreshadowing Christ’s triumph over Satan. Joseph looks in from outside the window, symbolising his closeness to, but also his separation from, the Virgin and Child. The pattern of the window’s glazing creates the impression of a halo around the Virgin and child’s heads. The composition is partly based on an engraving of the Virgin and Child by Antegna Mantegna.
As one of the towering figures in the history of art, Rembrandt, a miller’s son from the university town of Leiden, was an artist of unmatched genius. Equally gifted as a painter, printmaker, and draftsman, Rembrandt proved himself to be as skillful at making portraits as he was at creating religious and mythological narratives. His landscapes are just as remarkable as his rare still lifes and subjects detailing everyday life.
Widely recognized as the greatest practitioner of the etching technique in the history of art, Rembrandt created 300 prints that constitute a body of work unparalleled in richness and beauty. During his lifetime, Rembrandt’s extraordinary skills as a printmaker were the main source of his international fame. Unlike his oil paintings, prints travelled light and were relatively cheap. For this reason, they soon became very popular with collectors not only within, but also beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
Ex-collection Peter Gellatly (1831-1912), Lugt 1185, London
Private collection, USA;
Private collection, The Netherlands;
Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam
Bartsch 63; White/Boon 63;
The New Hollstein Dutch 278 first state (of IV); Nowell-Usticke C 2;
plate in existence at the Victoria & Albert Museum London (inv. E.655-1993)
A superb, richly-inked and dark impression with strong contrasts and no signs of wear, consistent with the earliest impressions of this subject. With small margins on all sides.